Thursday, March 19, 2009

Really Obeying the Bible? Or Not?

I suppose I shouldn't mix religion and politics -- but this is hard to resist.

Some supposedly Christian site posted a picture of a superhero beach ball where the air valve happens to have landed in the crotch of the Wolverine comic character -- clearly a plot by the gay lobby to promote homosexual behavior in young boys. (Apparently young girls don't blow up beach balls.) This funny link has been going around, but better are the comments -- here's my favorite:

GayChristian says:
March 4, 2009 at 9:51 am
THANK you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him or her that Leviticus 18:22 clearly state it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to follow them. My important Biblically based questions are listed below. I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to the Irish, but not English people. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own some Englishmen?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is: my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I do not agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev.21:20 state that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wriggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

In a later comment, he continues that when he was 'talking to God' recently,

"[God] also seemed really pissed that he’s credited with the writing of the bible at all. I guess he wrote a version but the editors... ruined it completely. He promised that for the second coming he’ll make sure to retain creative rights over the entire project."

This guy is fun!

A bigger point (you should excuse the expression), beyond the amusement for the average real Christian in this country (USA), is a less comfortable one, as pointed out by the philosopher Sam Harris in his book, "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason," is that modernity (and the ability to function well in a modern society) requires the religious to pick and choose their religious instructions and requirements: A strict reading of the Bible, for example, would make it almost impossible for the average citizen to function today. We find ourselves having to 'interpret' the wilder commands in order to soften or even to set them aside, because as time goes by, as a society we better grasp which primitive strictures and commandments make better sense, and which simply don't work for anybody who's no longer an illiterate, Stone-Age sheepherder living in a desert. The above list is just a short set of highlights of such irrelevant and even dangerously obsolete religious instructions we have all learned to live without.

When radical coreligionists come along demanding that we give equal serious attention to every command and constraint, we find ourselves unable to respond in a way that convinces them to lighten up. It's the modern tragedy of religion, unfortunately.

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